This week I received an email:
Yesterday in Jerusalem, Governor Mitt Romney made some statements that were not only wrong, but frankly, prejudiced and ignorant. Romney declared that “cultural differences” were the reason the Palestinian economy is not doing as well as Israel’s, without even acknowledging the Occupation.
This criticism of Romney’s mischaracterization of the Israel Palestinian conflict was published by none other than JEWISH VOICE FOR PEACE, which called upon Romney to apologize to the Palestinian people. I respect this organization, even given money to help in their call for justice. I wish everybody would support them.(1) They are people of conscience who take seriously their Jewish faith.
Is it possible that Romney has never heard of the Occupation, or the Wall constructed by Israel which stunts economic growth? Does he not see the closures and checkpoints which prevent Palestinians from getting to their jobs, fields, health care facilities and schools as a hindrance to economic success? Could he not know about the theft of Palestinian water, the restrictions on travel and shipments of goods? Is he not aware of the prohibition of imports and exports which robs Palestinians of normal business opportunities? These restrictive policies have been around a long time. Certainly long enough for him to know.
Economic oppression of Palestine has been official Israel policy from its beginning. Twenty years ago, Frank Collins, writing for The Jerusalem Journal reports:
For 24 years of their occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Israelis have systematically done everything in their power to block the normal
development of the Palestinians’ economy. Far from allowing the growth and modernization of the economic infrastructure, the occupation authorities have gone to great lengths to thwart any progress in this direction. They have striven to make the Palestinian economy totally dependent on, and subordinated to, that of Israel… The licensing of a new Palestinian factory requires securing certification from potential Israeli competitors that they will not suffer from the new Palestinian competition. Naturally, very few licenses for new factories are granted. Water consumption by Palestinians is restricted to 1967 levels, with the results that irrigated agriculture has declined from 18 to 5 percent of the Palestinian economy.(2)
I remember visiting a mother in the West Bank village of Hisma. She lead us down a concealed path to a hidden chicken coop which provided her family with a few eggs. I asked her what would happen if the Israelis discovered her “illegal business”? She responded that she would probably be put in jail. At that time, approximately twenty years ago, I found her hard to believe. No nation could be that calculating and cruel. Today, I know better. I owe her an apology.
It is amazing that the Palestinians have managed to hold on in face of such oppression. Romney praises Israel for its business success. He then turns right around and supports the giving of billions of U.S. taxpayers’ dollars to keep Israel’s economy afloat. I wonder how long Romney would stay in business in Gaza without electricity for most of the day, the resupply of materials or trucks to make deliveries.
Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director, Jewish Voice for Peace writes:
Governor Romney’s willful lack of understanding for facts on the ground and what appears to be racist assumptions about Israelis and Palestinians do not represent us… Romney stakes his value as a leader on his success in business. But any businessperson should know that blocking free trade and commerce, profiting from exploiting stolen land, and holding an entire economy hostage is not exactly fair play. (3)
Romney was in Israel attending a million dollar fundraising breakfast and sitting next to Shelton Adelson who has pledged a million dollars to defeat Barak Obama. The fact that Adelson bankrolled Newt Gingrich’s calling the Palestinians an “invented” people was not missed by Romney. He supports Netanyahu’s hard right rejection of any peace initiative that might lead to a two state, equal opportunity, solution.
It’s ironic that his breakfast was being served in the King David Hotel, the site of Israel’s pre-state terrorism which killed 91 people. But, that was then, when terrorism was on the other foot. Now, he could look out the window and see the wall and military control of Palestinian life, if he had chosen to. But, if you are humping for votes, such things as truth and justice get in the way. Nobody says that Romney isn’t smart. It’s his morals and ethics that are being called into question. Does anything matter to him as much as “business success”?
August 2, 2012
1 - Open Letter to Governor Mitt Romney: Apologize to the Palestinian People. Jewish Voice for Peace. 1611 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, CA 94612;
Phone (510) 465-1777; firstname.lastname@example.org
2 - Frank Collins, “Palestinian Economy in Chaos After Gulf War.” The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 1991, Vol X, Number 2, p.23 . Cited in my book, Israeli Peace/Palestinian Justice. p.155.
3 - Jewish Voice for Peace, cited above.